Do you consider yourself to be underweight or overweight? Do you feel unsatisfied or uncomfortable in your own body? These days, body weight can be a bit of a touchy subject. There is no shortage of evidence that our culture has adopted a very narrow set of physical standards that are considered normal, healthy, and beautiful. Of course, these standards vary slightly according to one’s gender, age, ethnicity, and community. But on the whole, our culture’s positive representations of the human body are very homogenous. This selective portrayal of beauty can greatly influence how we feel we should look, can dictate very unrealistic expectations about how much we think we should weigh, and can also be incredibly damaging to our self-esteem.
This is rich territory—filled with complex emotional, psychological, physical, and cultural factors, all influencing how we feel about our body type, our body weight, and ultimately, how we feel about ourselves. Thankfully, Ayurveda is a holistic healing tradition that honors all of who we are. In Ayurveda, the body, mind, and spirit are all seen as part of the same integrated whole. Therefore, anything that we do to enact change in the physical body, the emotional body, the mind, or the spiritual body will inherently affect every other aspect of our lives. As a result, when it comes to achieving a balanced body weight, Ayurveda informs an approach that is unique, insightful, and refreshingly sane.
Prakriti and Body Weight
According to Ayurveda, the person being treated is every bit as important as the imbalance being addressed. The Ayurvedic concept of prakriti (constitution) is incredibly relevant to any discussion of the Ayurvedic approach to weight management. In fact, it transforms the tone of the entire conversation because it embraces the inherent diversity among us.
Ayurveda recognizes that each of us has an unequivocally unique constitution—a personal reference point for optimal health that is established at conception, cemented at birth, and that remains stable throughout our lives. Vata, pitta, and kapha describe distinct forces at play within each individual’s constitution. All of the doshas are present in everyone, but in different quantities. Our constitutions influence our physiology, our physique, our likes and dislikes, our tendencies and habits, our mental and emotional nature, as well as our vulnerabilities toward imbalance and disease. Your constitution may not be the only factor in your particular struggle with body weight, but it is very likely an important consideration—whether you are underweight or overweight. If you do not know your Ayurvedic constitution, please consider taking our Ayurvedic Profile™ quiz.
Typically, individuals with lighter constitutions (usually vata-, and sometimes pitta-predominant) tend to have a slighter build and a leaner physique overall. These individuals sometimes long to be heavier—bulkier. But try as they might, they often struggle to gain or maintain weight. Their constitutions simply do not build bulk naturally or easily. By contrast, those with heavier constitutions (usually kapha-predominant) tend to be naturally sturdy, strong, and stocky. Many of these individuals would swear that they can gain weight simply by thinking about it, and losing weight can be quite a challenge for them. The important distinction here is that there is a difference between being naturally lean and being underweight. Likewise, there is a difference between having a naturally heavy build and being overweight.
When it comes to issues with body weight, our very first task is to ask ourselves if we truly have an imbalance at all or if we are simply unhappy with the normal, healthy tendencies of our constitutions. In the context of a culture that has dictated such narrow standards of beauty, this can be a challenging first step, but it is an important one. If you are not familiar with how your predominant doshas inform your physique, you might appreciate our resource, Vata, Pitta, Kapha, and You, which explores how the doshas influence our bodies, minds, and experiences on many levels.
If you determine that you are dissatisfied with your body’s natural expression of health and wellness, we would recommend that you begin to explore the origins of this internal discord. You might also evaluate whether there are ways that you can more fully embrace who you are—recognizing the inherent intelligence and beauty of your body. If, on the other hand, you determine that you do have a weight imbalance to address—whether you want to gain or lose weight—Ayurveda offers a number of practical tools for reclaiming optimal health.
The Importance of Agni
In Ayurveda, strong agni (the metabolic fire) is the very foundation of optimal health, while impaired agni is at the root of every imbalance and disease. Agni very directly informs our metabolic functions throughout the body. Therefore, balancing agni is a critical first step in addressing all kinds of weight imbalances. This can be a multi-faceted process, including changes to the diet, lifestyle, as well as herbal support. Ayurveda teaches us not only what to eat, but also when and how to eat, in order to support a return to balance. Exercise also greatly influences agni, but Ayurveda offers the unique perspective that the appropriate type, duration, and intensity of exercise can vary widely between individuals. Tending to agni is a very personalized process that should be tailored to address the specific concerns and challenges of each individual. If agni and its role in overall health are new concepts to you, our resource on The Importance of Healthy Digestion might help you to more fully appreciate the foundational importance of the metabolic fire.
The Ayurvedic Difference
Whether you are looking to gain weight or lose it, the Ayurvedic approach illuminates a simple set of principles that help us to improve digestive health, balance the metabolism, support the mind and the nervous system, and manage stress. At the same time, it invites us to commit to powerful forms of self-care that can help to reduce or eliminate the psychological and emotional imbalances that might otherwise prevent us from achieving our goals.
One of the most beautiful things about Ayurveda is that it meets each of us exactly where we are. Perhaps you’re deeply motivated—truly ready to revolutionize your habits in order to achieve your goals as quickly as possible. Or perhaps you’re a bit tentative and need to implement changes slowly, gradually—as you’re ready and able. It truly makes no difference. You can adopt Ayurveda’s diverse set of therapeutic strategies at your own pace and still reap the rewards. Obviously, the more discipline and commitment you bring to the table, the faster you’ll see and feel improvements. But rest assured that the process will not feel torturous or unsustainable. Instead, you’ll be embarking upon a clear, holistic, and time-tested path toward optimal health, promoting wellness from the inside out. What’s more, you’ll be eating a wholesome, healthy, and deeply satisfying diet—using practical guidelines to ensure your success. The desired changes in body weight are almost a side effect—the natural outcome of resolving the underlying imbalances in your system.
Choosing the Weight Balancing Resource that Is Right for You
The next step is to choose the appropriate weight balancing resource for your needs. Click on one of the links below and get started in reclaiming your health and vitality.